My dad died two months and 4 days before I turned 40. A pretty monumental event, coinciding with my entrance into “middle age”. His memorial service was exactly one week before my 40th birthday, so I kind of skipped it. No, I honestly skipped it. Nothing to celebrate last year, I wish I could have gone to sleep on the 24th and woken up on the 26th. Some people were unsure of what to do with that information, because a lot of folks say things they don’t mean, “No, please no bother, I don’t want to celebrate”, and then become enraged when there’s no surprise party. I am not one of those people, and thankfully, most of the people in my life understand that. There are no hidden meanings, or gifts I deftly hinted at. I say what I mean. Now 41 is within a week. Do I want to celebrate? You know, not really, but not as vehemently as I didn’t want to last year. I don’t need big plans…I’m just going to let things unfold. I still want to get my tattoo, that will be the main thing I will do for 41. In any case, what I’ve really noticed in and around entering this decade is how many things have changed. Things have changed in fact, in perception, and in understanding, of damn near everything in my life as I’ve known it up to this point.
There aren’t many people on this earth that truly understood the special bond I had with my father.If I had to hazard a guess, I might say 4, and none of them are in my family. Some say it was because I always needed him to validate me. Some may believe it’s because he spoiled me mercilessly and because I resembled his beloved mother. I believe it’s partially because I was the only positive thing that came from the end of a terminally ill marriage, a little new baby face in the midst of a colossal failure. It’s a miracle I even got here.
I’ve recently been dealing with a deep rift, a major fracture in a relationship I had counted on as always staying strong and true. I was blindsided. I know people lash out when they’re in pain, when they’re unhappy, but I never would have imagined in a million years that this person would turn on me as they have. I have been shredded into tiny pieces over being such a disappointment, for not caring, for withholding my love, and not meeting deep and seemingly totally unrealistic expectations. This has happened over months and months now. I originally found myself apologizing, scrambling to undo what I had no idea I’d done in the first place, only to have the sincerity of my apology put into question. With good reason, actually…how DO you apologize for something you have no recollection of doing, and when it’s pointed out to you, you don’t agree with the assessment of the wrongdoing? The apology was void, I agree. But in the grand old tradition of being myself, the fixer, I would have done anything to smooth things over, so I kept trying. It didn’t work. As the months progressed, more and more and more of my shortcomings were pointed out, my lack of support, of loyalty, of love, of desire to spend time with them. I didn’t feel this way, I absolutely loved them, with my whole heart and thought I was doing everything in my power to illustrate that. An unfinished argument ensued, an ugly, judgmental one. I wasn’t going to concede that I didn’t care, because it wasn’t true. It quickly became a self-fulfilling prophecy however, because now I absolutely feel the way I was originally accused of feeling. However, when my “deluded thinking” was chalked up to a questionable mental state, I had to stop. When I was pitied for being in a state of functional depression and anxiety and being “medicated”, I had to stop. When I was begged to get the things “fixed” in me that were “broken”, I had to STOP. No more poison, no more slashing at my heart. STOP. How many people do you know who would be foolish enough to come back for more? How mentally unstable would that be?
Have I been in a state of functional depression? Of course I have! It’s only been a little over a year since losing my father, and it didn’t matter that it was expected. I’d been braced for it for years and years, yet I could not imagine a life without him in it. It left a giant hole in me. Some days are perfectly fine, and I can get work done, laugh, spend time with my children, take care of my home and family and everything is roses. Other days I don’t want to get out of bed, but when I dream, they’re bad dreams. So there’s no real escape from grief, and I know that time is the only thing that helps. I have enough experience with alcohol and other things to know that even the escape they would provide would be fleeting, and leave me feeling worse after the fact. It’s been a year…and I’d thought I’d been making some progress until this current relationship exploded. I’m now dealing with two major losses. This last one may pass, most folks think it will, but it’s not so much what actually went down that saddens me. It’s the lens I see through now, as though I’ve been given a different pair of glasses to look at this person now, as well as in the past. They were on a pedestal…forever. Their shortcomings were consistently and intentionally overlooked, for decades, it’s not as though I didn’t notice them. I merely excused them. A pardon, if you will. Forgetting birthdays consistently, hell, it happens. Never a thank you card or call after receiving a gift, or flowers, or for giving up my own Master’s degree ceremony to be at theirs? Of course I would be there, it wasn’t a question, but there was never a thank you, and it was always okay. They were infallible. With these new glasses on, I see different things, traits that have always been there in varying degrees. Arrogance. Self-Righteousness. Elitism. Just plain meanness. Why did I ever want to play for this team? It's one thing that I played along as a teenager, and a young adult (and I did)…but into my 30’s? Why wasn’t I able to see it? Why did I view these traits when I DID see them as being acceptable? Was it merely because they weren’t directed at me? What makes it worse is I would jump onto the mean bandwagon, and be one of the minions, standing behind and cheering as other’s faults were pointed out, with no regard to what damage might be done to their emotions. So it’s more than sadness over a lost relationship, or fear that so much is changing, it’s disgust with myself, that I was such a poor judge of character for so very long.
The people I trust most in the world help to shore me up, and they’re very good at it, my friends. They know me best, and they know where my weaknesses lie and what I’m the most afraid of. I’ll feel relieved, vindicated, and at peace with the difficult, but nonetheless accurate truth that people and relationships change, often for the worst. I’ll accept it, and believe it. With the most recent loss, I received probably the best advice ever, “Stop petting the rabid dog.” But then it’s as though at the end of the night I forget to totally close the door in my soul, a tiny crack is left open, and all the nasty, tiny dark spiders of self-loathing and doubt begin to stream in. It doesn’t matter if they make sense, it doesn’t matter if my heart and mind know they’re wrong. They’ll still swarm in and make themselves at home for awhile…and they whisper….”They’re right about you. You’re weak. You’re selfish. You care more about your outside than you do your inside, you’re a selfish mother, you’re sloppy, you have no patience, or loyalty, or integrity.” When these begin to swarm, I write their voices down in my personal journal so as not to torture any of you who may be reading this. In fact, my personal journal could be titled, “Pathetic account of self-loathing.” And it is pathetic…in reading back over it, it’s always the same. So not only is it rather stupid, but it’s also unoriginal and boring. Man, I can't even make that interesting! The only antidote I’ve found for this is being busy, and that’s not terribly reliable, especially when they creep up in the middle of the night, or like now, when I’m on vacation and have entirely too much time to think.
In experiencing all of this, I am learning quite a bit. Firstly, support can come from some pretty unlikely places. People in my life to whom I’ve often been unfair to, and jumped on the “mean” bandwagon toward have forgiven everything, and shown me nothing but love. Close, close friends I’ve had for nearly 30 years now are experiencing the exact same thing. To the point of humor…how can this be? How can these people in our lives all lose their fucking minds at the same time? I’m sad for my friends, but also praise God for it, thank you that it’s not only me! Thank you that maybe I don’t actually suck and that it’s their problem and not mine! The more folks I talk to who are around my age are either experiencing something similar currently, or have very recently. And the reason is all the same…we’re tired of walking on eggshells, we’re tired of trying to contort ourselves into uncomfortable, unnatural positions in order to keep everyone else happy, we’re sick of being scapegoats and doormats. Toxicity has to leave now, thank you very much. Peace is out there, and is attainable, but not under these circumstances. Houses, hearts, and souls need to be cleaned out. It’s painful as all hell, more painful than I ever could have imagined, but it’s time to let it go. I’ve written a couple of things on Facebook recently referring to what I’m currently experiencing. One was to not meet meanness with more meanness. That will simply validate the person and lead them to believe that meanness is normal and acceptable, and it’s simply not. There is a LOT of venom inside of me, a lot of below the belt things I could pummel this person with, but I am proud to say I have not, and will not. It doesn’t make you feel vindicated, or as though you’ve gotten someone back, or let them “not get away” with something. Letting that kind of ugliness out into the world hurts your own inner being and soul more than it hurts the target. And it’s for that reason that this person remains in my prayers, as hard as that is. Another recent observation was that if people focus on what they aren’t getting in friendships and relationships, instead of focusing on the love and support they do receive from them will be perpetually disappointed and unhappy. There was no amount of attention that I could realistically give this relationship that could have possibly sufficed or satisfied them, and the reason is it’s not really about me. It’s what’s missing in them. And while this feeling may change over time, the saddest part of all of this is my recognition of how little I believe I will miss this relationship. It’s a relief in so many ways…I don’t have to knock myself silly trying to please, I don’t have to run in circles, I don’t have to entertain and be constantly available. All I need to do is be true to myself, and the truth is that I need peace in my life now, more than ever before.
So I’ll continue to face hard truths, and be prepared as one can be for the poles to continue to shift. I’ll continue to pray for the people who have hurt me the most, but that’s the most I can offer them at this time. I will keep the poison out of my bloodstream, and surround myself with the amazing souls I’m lucky and blessed enough to have in my life. I will check and double check the door to my soul to make sure there aren’t any cracks left open to let the little mean-spirited, evil beings sneak in…and I’ll try to keep my appointment at 4.